Heat stroke: Everything you need to know about protecting your dogs as extreme weather approaches

Animal charity RSPCA has revealed a third of people still wouldn’t know what to do if their dog was showing signs of heat stroke.
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So what is it and how can you protect your animals?

The Met Office has issued an amber warning of extreme heat for some parts of England and Wales over the coming days and one of the most common side effects of scorching conditions is heat stroke.

Esme Wheeler, a dog welfare expert with the RSPCA, said the animal charity continues to receive reports of dogs being left in cars and observes many dogs being taken to crowded outdoor events in such high temperatures.

The RSPCA says it could be ‘a matter of life or death’ if pet owners do not take extreme caution and familiarise themselves with the signs of heatstroke in animals ahead of the severe heatwave this weekend.The RSPCA says it could be ‘a matter of life or death’ if pet owners do not take extreme caution and familiarise themselves with the signs of heatstroke in animals ahead of the severe heatwave this weekend.
The RSPCA says it could be ‘a matter of life or death’ if pet owners do not take extreme caution and familiarise themselves with the signs of heatstroke in animals ahead of the severe heatwave this weekend.
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Here's everything you need to know about heat stroke and ways to protect your beloved furry companions.

What is a heat stroke and how does it affect your animals?

Heatstroke is a condition caused by the body's overheating, typically as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical exertion.

The most severe form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature reaches 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or higher.

The urgent advice comes as the Met Office has issued an Amber Extreme Heat Warning and a Level 3 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert is in place for parts of England and Wales.The urgent advice comes as the Met Office has issued an Amber Extreme Heat Warning and a Level 3 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert is in place for parts of England and Wales.
The urgent advice comes as the Met Office has issued an Amber Extreme Heat Warning and a Level 3 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert is in place for parts of England and Wales.

For pets, if their body temperature exceeds 39.4C (103 Fahrenheit), it is considered abnormal and hyperthermic.

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The critical temperature where multiple organ failure and impending death occurs is around 41.2C to 42.7C (107 Fahrenheit to 109 Fahrenheit).

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My dog seems lethargic - is this a sign of heat stroke?

Lethargy or a change in behaviour is one of the signs of heatstroke, said the RSPCA, but there are other signs that pet owners can look out for.

Apart from lethargy, excessive panting and unusual breathing noise could also mean that your dog is suffering from the heat.

Other signs include stumbling or blue or grey tinge to gums or tongue. If your dog shows any of these signs, please contact your vet immediately.

What to do if my dog is showing signs of heat stroke?

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The RSPCA said pet owners should stop the animals from exercising and move them into the shade or cool space immediately.

The animals also should be given water, but in small amounts without forcing them to keep them hydrated.

They must be placed in cool, but not ice-cold, water, or it can be poured over them; alternatively, place a cool towel over their side and replace it when they become warm.

In addition, pet owners are urged to contact their vet immediately for further instructions.

How can I protect my dog from heat stroke?

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The most important is to never leave your dog in a vehicle as they could die in hot cars. Call 999 if you see a dog trapped in a hot car.

The RSPCA also said skipping walks during extreme weather shouldn't cause your dog any problems, rather than risking them of heat stroke.

If pet owners insist on exercising their dog, they are advised on keeping their pet gentle and walk slowly on the lead. Doing this in the very early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler is advisable.

Having fresh, cool water available at all times is also necessary, in addition to making some frozen dog treats to keep your pooch cool.

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Apart from that, freeze your dog's water bowl or kong, or add ice cubes to your pet's bowl. Wrapping an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel or using damp towels for your pet to lie on also helps.

Find out more about protecting your animals such as cats, fish, horses, farm animals or other wildlife on the RSPCA website.